Doordarshan seeks Rahul Gandhi interview amid allegations of bias

After EC rebuke, I&B asks Prasar Bharati to set up panel to ensure model code compliance.

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DD was ticked off by EC on Tuesday for lack of balanced political coverage.
NEW DELHI: Doordarshan has asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for an interview in order to give space to all political views in the face of allegations of bias. The state-run broadcaster was ticked off by the Election Commission of India on Tuesday for lack of balanced political coverage. The Opposition has said it was giving preferential treatment to the government and the ruling party.

Prasar Bharati chief executive officer Shashi Shekhar Vempati is learnt to have written to the Congress party seeking an interview with Gandhi for DD News and Rajya Sabha TV, which he also runs, so that “the principal opposition party” may “put forth its views”. Doordarshan is run by Prasar Bharati.

Vempati sought an hour-long joint interview for both channels “at the earliest” in an April 4 letter, which ET has seen, addressed to Randeep Surjewala, who’s in charge of the Congress communications department. It is gathered that Gandhi’s office is yet to respond to the request.


CONG SUBMITTED MEMORANDUM TO EC ON APRIL 1
“As the biggest exercise of democracy, the Lok Sabha elections, has been announced, it will be a great privilege for DD News and RSTV to conduct a joint interview with the Congress president Shri Rahul Gandhi, so that the principal opposition party may put forth its views to the citizens of India,” Vempati wrote. The interview could be “at a time and place of convenience” for the Congress president.

The public broadcaster’s coverage of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been coming under increased attack.

The Congress party had submitted a memorandum to the EC on April 1 alleging misuse of the official media by the ruling party. It drew the EC’s attention to an 84-minute live broadcast of the PM’s ‘Main bhi Chowkidar hun’ campaign address on March 31.

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After assessing Doordarshan’s response, the EC on Tuesday wrote to the information and broadcasting ministry that “the airtime coverage given to various political parties is disproportionate and not balanced”. The EC asked the ministry to “direct” DD News “to desist from extending any preferential or disproportionate airtime coverage in favour of any party and to ensure “balanced coverage” of all political parties.

The ministry met Prasar Bharati officials on Tuesday and asked them to put in place “‘a robust system” for adherence to the model code of conduct. It has also said that while the EC directions were specific to DD News, all Prasar Bharati arms including All India Radio and Doordarshan must adhere to the code. A committee will be set up immediately to ensure that the model code of conduct is complied with in all news and other coverage, sources confirmed to ET.

Vempati’s letter said the staterun broadcaster has striven for impartiality in its coverage.

“DD News has been successfully discharging its responsibility by giving balanced, fair and accurate news without sensationalising, as well as by carrying different shades of opinion,” he said. It described Rajya Sabha TV as a knowledge-based programming platform that aims at providing “an objective perspective on national and international affairs to the people”.

The Congress president is the first major opposition leader that Prasar Bharati has reached out to for a big interview this election season. DD News is learnt to have asked all its state units to seek interviews with chief ministers and senior leaders from all political parties as part of election coverage.
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